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Brazil attempts to combat dengue with GM mosquitoes

Monday, April 21st 2014 - 06:28 UTC
Full article 7 comments
Last year Brazil reported 1.4 million cases of dengue Last year Brazil reported 1.4 million cases of dengue

The world’s largest ever swarm of genetically modified mosquitoes has been released in a Brazilian town to combat dengue -- a leading cause of illness and fatality in several Mercosur countries, except for Uruguay.

 Genetically modified (GM) in a laboratory with a gene designed to devastate the non-GM Aedes aegypti population and reduce dengue's spread, the newly hatched Aedes aegypti mosquitoes called “Franken-skeeters” were released in Jacobina, a farming town in Bahia state, according to local press reports.

“We need to provide alternatives because the system we have now in Brazil doesn’t work,” said Aldo Malavasi, president of Moscamed, a Brazilian company that’s raising and testing the GM mosquitoes in Jacobina.

“We have thousands and thousands of cases of dengue and that costs a lot for the country. People are unable to work.”

Last year, Brazil reported 1.4 million cases of dengue, which is endemic in three of the 12 host cities for this summer’s World Cup. There is no vaccine. The most severe form of the illness, dengue hemorrhagic fever, can lead to shock, coma and death.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), there has been a 30-fold increase in dengue cases around the globe during the last 50 years.

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  • LEPRecon

    I'm pretty sure they did something similar in the film “Mimic” and look what happened there. ;)

    However on a serious note, I do hope this works as there is currently no vaccine against Dengue fever, and in order to stop the spread of disease you need to remove the vulnerable population (through vaccination programmes) or the vector (in this case the mosquito).

    Apr 21st, 2014 - 08:26 am 0
  • golfcronie

    Surely that will put a lot of football fans off travelling to Brazil. Can it be transmitted from person to person or do you have to be infected via a mosqito bite?

    Apr 21st, 2014 - 09:07 am 0
  • LEPRecon

    @2 golfcronie

    It is normally spread by the bite of an infected female mosquito. They require a blood meal to create their eggs.

    But in order for any disease to spread there needs to be 3 components.

    1. The reservoir - this means that enough of the population has the disease (as carriers) for it to spread.
    2. The Vector - this is the means by which the disease is spread - in this case the mosquito.
    3. A vulnerable population - that is non-protected people.

    Remove any one of these things and the disease can't spread. However in the case of Dengue fever there is a reservoir, there is a vector, and there is no vaccine to protect the vulnerable population.

    What the Brazilian government are trying to do is remove the vector - the mosquito, no mosquito - no spread of the disease.

    However, people travelling to Brazil for the World Cup shoud go and see their GP or local travel medicine clinic.

    Precautions against getting bitten by mosquitos should be taken. Long sleeves from dusk til dawn (mosquitos tend to bite more at these times), mosquito nets and/or zappers in your room, and most importantly, insect repellant with at least 40% DEET in it. Anything less than 40% won't even slow a mosquito down.

    Apr 21st, 2014 - 09:28 am 0
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